In a previous post, When Leaders are Caught in the Middle of Change, I pointed out the frustrations leaders have in the middle of bridging the change gap between where they start to where they want to go. There is a lot of wasted energy among all who are involved in the process during this time. Sam Kaner called this time the Groan Zone.
Why do people, who initially appear excited about the prospect of change, baulk and often react negatively half-way through the change process.
In part, it relates to how we shape our reality. We shape our reality with what we perceive our reality to be. Our perceptions of the future are linked to our present thinking; in other words, we agree with only those things we accept and reject those things that don't fit into our world view. We get trapped in the pathways of our mind – through time we wire our brain, so to speak, to think in the comfort zone. Sam Walter Fosse wrote a wonderful poem called the “Calf Path” which I find describes, as a metaphor, how we get trapped in the pathways of our mind. (Find it at: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-calf-path/
We have been so schooled in our thought processes, formed by our experiences, stories, readings, education, and social relationships that we become fixed in our way of thinking. Our existing thought process is our world view. That’s why it is so hard to break out of it and want to remain with “the way things were.
We are reluctant to let go of old ways! We want to hang on to the old paradigm we know. We want to hang on because it gives us a sense of security, a sense of familiarity – it protects our ego. But keeping with the familiar and not letting go also keeps us from committing to the change process.
What happens when this “hanging on” occurs. Fundamentally we find ways to fight or flee change rather than embrace it. Sometimes this takes an overt form and other times a more covert form. We make excuses, point fingers, resist, oppose, attack, resort to mind games, and exhibit other forms of inappropriate behaviour; We avoid getting involved, shirk responsibility and accountability and often give into passive aggressive behaviour. On good days we take two steps forward and then slip backward. We lose the narrative, the vision and fall back to old ways.
A second dynamic relates to what I have come to know as the “arrogance of certitude.” The arrogance of certitude is viewing ourselves as always right. When I think I’m always right I become judgmental, sometimes downright cruel, and do things without thinking of the consequences – or feelings – of the other, resulting in the breakdown in our respect and relationships with each other in the workplace. Again, our arrogance is steeped in the formulation of our world view. Once we get caught up in this thought process we start thinking from a duality perspective, "I'm right, your wrong," "We were better off before. Past is better than future." We stop thinking about the possibilities and revert to what we know and are comfortable with, because, after all, we are right.
A third dynamic in the mix relates to our lack of comfort with "ambiguity." Ambiguity is that sense of unknowing and a feeling of disconnect with what is going on around us. Feelings of ambiguity often lead to anxiety and fear. It becomes the fear of the unknown. We know what we know for sure, we don't know what the change will ultimately bring, so rather then move forward we want to keep with either the present, or the past. We are fearful that we might lose something in the process and we are not sure what we will gain. So let’s not go there.
We come back to the beginning: to change we must first change our thinking – become aware of who we are and how we behave. Opening ourselves to new behaviours means to change the way we think which informs the way we act; and that’s the harder and more difficult challenge. We can't change anyone, only they can change themselves. We can only give them opportunity and it is up to each individual to seize what could be, rather than what is.
For all these reasons, and more, people naturally resist change, they fight it and find ways to undermine it - their mind doesn't want to go in a different direction, because it is schooled in the direction in which it is trained or wired to go.
Many of us hold back, or double down in the change process, or don’t commit to it because it doesn’t fit into what we are use to – it doesn’t fit into our world view; and this is understandable as not to change is a way of keeping ourselves in tact! We protect our way of thinking, our own way of doing things, and so we keep from fully committing to the change process.
This is what happens to some at the beginning of change, but more so when they are in the middle of the change process. People are caught in wanting to go back to their comfort zone or keep their new middle comfort space. They are reluctant to progress further into the unknown.
My next post will begin to unravel what leaders can do to move out of the middle zone and continue to reach to distant end.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie, MSW FCMC
LeaderManagers Encourage Self-directed, Accountable and an Engaged workforce
In our knowledge-driven age, LeaderManager are strategic enablers who build the foundation for a workforce to thrive, take ownership over their own work, and positively engage in the workplace. Success for a thriving workforce means employees become brand ambassadors, contributors to a constructive work environment, and high performers by contributing to quality work.
The challenge for LeaderManagers is reflected in the saying, “these outcomes are easier said than done.” Many of us have experience in trying to change a behaviour or a culture. It takes determination, will-power and plenty of conscious effort. The we’ve-always-done-it-this-way and it’s-been-working-so-why-change culture are comments that we have heard far too often, and unfortunately we can still hear them being expressed in many workplaces today.
This article explores five areas where LeaderManagers can develop a high-performing culture by encouraging a self-directed, accountable and an engaged workforce.
1. Linking Personal Values to Organizational Vision
One of the most important pre-requisite for a productive knowledge workforce is to have a clear line-of-sight between values and vision. Vision provides the end-in-mind, a goal that we work towards, while values provide us the necessary fuel for our journey. Here are three critical questions to explore:
If your answers are ‘no’ to any of these questions, it might mean that you are not motivated by someone else’s vision. The only vision that motivates us is our own vision. It is important therefore, to identify what our personal vision is. Where do we see ourselves in three years? Five years? You might think this is a no-brainer, but putting these thoughts on paper is harder than it seems. Once done however, we have established the first step towards a personal destination.
What about values? We choose our own values and we accept the consequences of living with them, repeatedly. It’s who we are. Similarly, turning values into written statements is not an easy. Once we do it, we may notice a gap between who we intend to be and where we are today. Use this values gap as a personal driver for change.
Now, compare your personal values and vision with that of the organization. Do they align? Where don’t they align? How does this affect you and your team? It is only in alignment where your find energy both for you and your team.
2. Keeping Focus While Maintaining Flexibility Doing more with less is now becoming a new normal. The workforce is continuously asked to deliver more, deliver better and with fewer resources. This creates more stress for people and often results in an unhealthy workplace. Technology and tools, instead of becoming the enablers of efficiency, are now enabling inefficiency.
On average, each of us receive 50 – 100 emails in our in-basket every day and we feel compelled to click on it at least 8 times during the day. We may also receive an average of 5 voicemails per day which take a slightly longer time to process than many of our emails. These numbers increase as we advance within the levels of management.
Our busyness meter jumps another notch when we find colleagues popping by to request help or just wanting to visit, or we become distracted when we give in to the temptation of checking news updates.
A University of California study in 2008 stated that we are interrupted every 11 minutes and it takes us about 25 minutes to return to our original tasks. It also estimated that one hour of productive work is equivalent to 3-4 hours of productive time.
Have we asked ourselves how much productive time that we have in a day?
The basic principle to begin resolving the dilemma of staying focus while maintaining flexibility lies in finding ways to get back in control of our own day and managing the distractions that we face everyday. Keeping focus, at its core, is to make sure we make appointments with ourselves so that we can work on what’s important.
3. Managing Priorities and Developing Personal OwnershipWe may all be familiar with the Important/Urgent Window that is now pervasive in the literature that explores how to manage time and workload. It is important to keep reminding ourselves about this window, because it does help us to continue to put our focus on the right priorities and focus on the right thing at the right time. It’s the first step in creating our short and long-term to-dos, and helps us to visualize what’s at stake.
Many people get caught in the ‘busy-ness’ trap, by performing non-important activities. We need to think in terms of adding value, not just activities. Do you find yourself saying:
Being conscious of the decisions we make which allow us to complete our priorities in manageable chunks, run meetings effectively, and commit time to work on what’s important strengthens our personal accountability and ownership of our work. The satisfaction of being able to put a ‘complete’ check mark and track our own and our team’s progress will begin to drive us towards creating value for ourselves and the organization.
4. Defining and Measuring Performance It probably comes as no surprise that initiatives and projects need to be tracked and measured to ensure they are successful. Measurements must make sense to both employees and management. With this in mind, the measurement tool should not be used against an individual or a team. Instead, it should be a motivator to enhance results. Dialogue is a critical element in any successful measurement because many of the measurements we choose to use will have intangible results. Key steps in developing a performance process is to answer the following questions:
5. Persuading and Influencing An effective, efficient, high-performing and engaged workforce in today’s business requires that every one influences each other to serve the organization’s strategic purpose. We are constantly influencing one another – creating presentations, crafting persuasive arguments, engaging our team members, and making our presence heard in meetings. In other words, the more influential we are, the more value we add to the organization and our team.
Influencing is best defined as an interactive process which enables us to build relationships with people to bring about an exchange of ideas, actions and behaviours without using force or authority.
Effective influencing skills are critical for a high performing culture. When team members positively influence others, they encourage everyone on the team to become the best they can be.
How can LeaderManagers improve in these five areas? The following are three strategies to consider.
Leaders are visionaries. They see the future where others don't. They lead either from the front or from behind. They lead others along with them to their destination. All leaders do this and history is full of examples. In more recent times we have Martin Luther King breaking down black barriers in the United States; Mandela seeing his people freely participating in the South African political discourse; and, Gandhi visioning an India without British rule. All these leaders had difficult challenges and were caught in the cross fire of backlash, push-back, resistance, often with violent consequences. They also experienced frustrations, grumblings, conflicts, and discontent in their own following; often times, because some followers didn't agree with their methodology, or they were not moving fast enough, or because of fear of the consequences. This is when these leaders were caught in the middle, between their vision and those conspiring against their vision.
The vast majority of leaders, however, are not the Martin Luther King's, Gandhi's or the Mandela's of the world. These are the people leading change within their organizations. They have a vision of where the organization ought to be - they see a future different from the present. Take for example, a leader who sees an organization where people are engaged, work inter-dependently within independent teams, take ownership, responsibility and accountability for their actions, and where bureaucratic barriers are removed so that communication is freely exchanged, and work gets done in flow rather than in fits and starts. The difficulty they face are with people who are stuck in the past, who fear the ambiguity of change and drag the process backward rather than forward, or as one CEO told me, "we do the two-step shuffle, one step forward and one step backward, then two steps forward and one back - we don't seem to be going anywhere fast!" He is caught in the middle, always juggling the realities of the present with the vision of the future state.
The cycle of organizational change goes like this: Leaders explain their vision, people are initially excited as they see the possibilities of what could be; a leadership team is formed and becomes passionate and aligned with the vision; part way through the change process they encounter difficulties exhibited by frustrations, grumbling and push-back, both overt and covert, from those who were comfortable in the old paradigm; and, then with leadership determination, engagement, and persistence breakthrough gradually solidifies and a new way of doing things finally takes hold.
It's during the middle part - where back sliding, back biting, and undermining occurs - when leaders and their leadership team begin to become frustrated, discouraged and wonder if its worth the challenge. Sometimes they begin to coast and they too begin to back slide. They are caught in the middle - between the vision and pull-back to the old comfort zone.
It is precisely during these times when leaders and the leadership team need resolve, resilience and the re-commitment to their vision. They need to bridge the gap from where they are to the other side, over the river of negativity that flows beneath them. The bridge cannot stop in middle of construction or else the other side will never be reached, and all the gains made will tumble into the raging waters below. The naysayers will have won.
It is puzzling for some leaders and managers why people, who initially seemed extremely excited about a new prospect, fall back to negative undermining. My next post will explore this reality found within the change process.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie, MSW, FCMC.